The Netflix comedy-drama introduces some much needed non-binary representation
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY SAM TAYLOR: NETFLIX
When watching trailers for Sex Education back in 2019, I assumed the “will they won’t they” trope between Otis and Maeve would be what carried the show. This is perhaps why I put off watching it for so long. But by the end of season one, it was clear that the diverse and multifaceted cast of characters would be the heart of the show.
Sex Education has rightfully been dubbed queer as hell. By the end of season two, the show had portrayed many LGBTQIA+ experiences, but fans wondered whether it would ever explore trans youth. Well, I’m sure many viewers squealed with excitement when it was announced that the third season will introduce a bunch of new characters, including a non-binary student, Cal, played by Dua Saleh.
In an interview with The Face, the Sudanese-American artist reflected their shock in being cast for the role: “I was surprised Sex Education even found me or had heard about me. They were searching for artists that were non-binary… I think they just listened”. Whilst this is Dua’s television debut, they are an experimental performer and singer-rapper.
Teasers for the season imply an attempt to tackle the schools reputation of being a “sex school” by enforcing a school uniform. I wonder how this will impact Cal and how they will interact with this. In the interview they also say: “Cal’s resisting the status quo because the status quo is inherently violent to the students. It is harmful to their self-expression and their identities”. From what we know so far, Cal seems to be a resistant force who will make sure their voice is heard. In a show all about the turbulence of adolescence and the education system, I can’t wait to see how Cal’s character arc develops.
Trailers have shown Cal interacting with Jackson, a star athlete turned performer who has struggled with dealing with the expectations placed on his shoulders. I’m looking forward to seeing how these two bounce off each other. Will Cal continue to influence Jackson to live a life that serves him joy, regardless of what others expect of him? I hope so.
Whilst Billions and Star Trek: Discovery have broken from the mould by having non-binary rep in their shows, I can only imagine how impactful it will be for young QTIPOC audiences to have a dark-skinned non-binary character on this show. As a society, we rarely look at transness in a nuanced way and when we do, it’s usually through the lens of whiteness. This show has sparked many conversations in homes that were previously not being addressed and I look forward to seeing these discussions evolve to include black trans experiences. If the past seasons of Sex Education are anything to go by, then I can’t wait to see a multidimensional non-binary person of colour blow us all away on the screen.
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